Do you want to know what are the best and most important home inspection tools?
Whether you are a new home inspector that wants to know my tools or a homeowner that wants to inspect their own home --- you are in the right place.
In this detailed guide, I will be going over...
- My top tools that I use to professionally inspect homes (and buildings)
- The crucial reasons that I frequently use these tools
- What to look for when using these home inspecting tools
- My most important home inspection tool and why I use it
Let's get started with this guide!
What Are My Home Inspection Tools?
My home inspecting tool kit is the most useful gear that I use to inspect homes on a professional basis. These tools greatly simplify my inspections as well as speed up the whole process --- helping me avoid costly mistakes. I recommend these essential tools to new inspectors as well as to homeowners who want to inspect their own home for maintenance.
This home inspection equipment spans from the common and all the way to the obscure. You will have used some of these tools throughout your life, but other tools you may never of heard before. I have used these tools from small residential condos, and up to multi-million dollar commercial properties.
If you are interested in becoming a home inspector (or just want to do your own inspection) --- this home inspector tool kit is what in my opinion are the essentials. You can do home inspections without them, but at a much lower quality for your client. After doing hundreds of home inspections, these are the tools that made the cut and I can't work without.
According to InterNachi, technically only a flashlight and outlet tester with a GFCI test button is required for an inspection with their certification.
#1. High-Powered Rechargeable Flashlight
This is probably my most important tool on home inspections. With a nice flashlight, you can see many water stains and defects that you otherwise wouldn't see. In fact, with my flashlight, the two most common things I uncover are water/moisture stains and drywall patches.
And of course, sometimes patches and water is connected. They did the patch to repair or cover up the water issue. So anytime I find a drywall patch, it is a possible red flag, so I make sure to take a picture and put it in my report. I also take a quick reading of the stain or patch with my moisture meter.
Having a flashlight that is rechargeable is also very handy --- I always hated buying new batteries because it's such a waste of time. But now, there are very high quality LED flashlights that you can buy with a rechargeable battery. My top choice is the Tokeyla Rechargeable Flashlight (2000 Lumens).
#2. Moisture Meter
My moisture meter is definitely one of my useful gadgets that I use during home inspections. I can't even tell you how many times I have seen moisture stains on ceilings and walls. It's an everyday experience for me.
But there is only one way to know if the stain is "active" with water or moisture --- and that is by using a moisture meter. Of course, if the leak is very bad, you could just put your hand up to it and feel the wetness, but it usually isn't that bad.
A moisture meter is highly sensitive, and if you stick it up to your hand, it will go to 100% and start beeping. Your blood is mainly water, so the meter will respond to your hand as if it is a big leak. Most moisture meters give the reading as a percentage of water in the material.
One thing frequently forgotten by new buyers is that the water stain may also signal mold in the wall/ceiling cavity. Anytime there is a high moisture content, mold has the potential to grow.
When using a moisture meter, it is important to put it on the correct setting --- there is usually soft wood, hard wood, drywall, and masonry settings. My most common setting obviously is drywall.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the moisture meter will give a false reading on metal objects such as the metal drywall strip at corners. Also, anything less than 10% readings, I generally disregard. A serious leak will have readings from 50% or higher --- when the light signal goes to red and starts beeping.
I really like the Ryobi Pinless Moisture Meter simply because it has a wide surface area on it's back. With other meters, they only have a small area that can detect moisture, but the Ryobi meter has very large pads on it's back that will detect moisture --- almost all of it's backside is a moisture sensor. Since it's surface area is so large, you can quickly search a whole basement for moisture.
An awl is simply a metal tool with a pointed end. This home inspector tool is very useful to probe for rotted wood. Rotted or deteriorated wood is one of the most common things I find during home inspections.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know if an area of wood is rotted because sometimes a handyman or homeowner will paint over the existing rotted wood. I am not psychic, so I can't say whether it is intentional --- but painted over rotted wood is extremely common in my experience. Almost every house has at least one or two areas of painted over deteriorated wood.
In my experience, if the wood trim isn't maintained, after about 15-20 years, most homes will have rotted wood in numerous areas. The most common areas are at the bottom of door jambs such as exterior doors and the garage door trim. Another very common area is the wood window sills.
When you use an awl, just apply gentle pressure on any suspected areas. If the wood is rotted, the awl will go straight through the paint and into the soft/rotted wood. During my inspections, I usually take pictures of the awl in the rotted wood so it is indisputable.
My top pick for awls is this Large Grip Awl by Malco.
#4. Outlet Tester With GFCI Test
Testing outlets is a frequent test during my home inspections. One of the most common wiring defects of outlets is missing/open grounds and hot/neutral reversed.
Whenever I am inspecting an old home --- let's say 40+ years old --- I am always on the lookout for ungrounded outlets. Many times with old homes, not all outlets have been upgraded with grounds. An outlet without a ground is more likely to start a fire and/or damage electrical equipment...it can also be a shock hazard. Frequently I find old homes that 3-pronged outlets (seemingly normal) but when I check them with an outlet tester, I realize it is ungrounded.
Besides missing grounds, another common wiring problem I find is when the hot and neutral wire have been reversed (or switched places). This is an easy fix but it is a shock hazard. If you have an old lamp that is plugged into one of these outlets, and if you touch an exposed metal socket for the light bulb, you can get shocked --- even if the light is switched off.
This tester also comes with a GFCI test button so you can easily check outdoor outlets and bathroom/kitchen outlets to see if the GFCI will trip (or if the outlet is actually GFCI connected). I recommend the Sperry Outlet Tester with molded rubber grips.
#5. Tool Pouch
During a home inspection, nothing is worse than having to go back to your tool bag for something --- it ruins the rhythm of the inspection. That's why I always use a tool pouch --- I keep all of my most essential home inspection equipment in there. Plus, when I inspect an attic, I can remove the tool pouch and put it on the ladder by it's top handle.
The main pocket is large enough to even put in my moisture meter, and I can even insert a laser thermometer or small infrared camera --- in addition to the smaller tools. I really like the non-leather Dead On Tools Utility Pouch. I find leather tool pouches to be less flexible and just not as nice.
#6. Adjustable Small Ladder
During my home inspections, one of the last things I do is go into the attic. Most homes do not have pull down attic stairs, and having a small adjustable ladder is important. My 13-foot adjustable ladder can fit in the back of my car without an issue, and it is easy to carry this ladder to the attic.
If the ceiling is not to tall, I can place this ladder in the upside down V configuration and get into the attic. For very tall attic access (such as in a garage), I will then make the ladder fully extended.
My top choice for a high quality ladder is the Little Giant 13-foot Multi Use Ladder.
What's The Final Word On Home Inspector Tools?
There are literally hundreds of different possible home inspecting tools, but these six are my essential tools that I use on every job. Whether you are a prospective inspector, or a homeowner, these home inspector tools will help you inspect a home for whatever reason.
Besides these six, if I could only have one home inspector tool, let's say by force --- then I would go with a high quality flashlight every time. My flashlight has allowed me to spot hundreds of defects over the years. It allows me to place a spotlight upon the dark and dirty areas that sellers don't want me to see. A good flashlight also helps me focus and get into the right inspecting mindset --- looking for anything and everything abnormal.
I hope you enjoyed this guide.